Wasichana Wote Wasome (WWW) Project
The Wasichana Wote Wasome (WWW) project has the goal to improve school enrolment, retention, attendance and learning outcomes of girls in school throughout Kenya. The project, funded by the UK government, consists of a consortium of five organizations, with AMURT being the lead implementing partner in Samburu and Mombasa Counties. The project is especially important in Samburu where traditionally girls have not been given as much importance as boys. This imbalance is being rectified by making interventions across four dimensions in the life of the girls: the community, the school, the household and the girl herself. This strategy is working: AMURT enrolled 837 girls in primary school in Samburu in 2016, way above the initial target of 550.
The girl in the community
WWW began with a series of community conversations designed to help shift attitudes and behavior around young girls’ participation in education. In poor, traditional households, girls’ domestic responsibilities often compete with their right to education. The girls in the pastoralist communities of Samburu, for example, are often kept out of school by their fathers so they can herd goats.
As a result of the conversations, and the support of local administrations who compelled parents and guardians to comply with national policies and laws guaranteeing a girl’s right to education, attutudes have changed. In most households there is at least one male who now supports the girls. This could be an uncle who accompanies the girl to school during the rainy season, or a brother who intervenes with the father to allow her to continue with schooling instead of herding goats.
The project’s Community Health Volunteers (CHV) have played an important role. Being members of the community, they understand the best way to approach people. Here is the testimony of one of the CHVs from Likoni:
Some parents favor the boys, thinking that an investment in a girl will be lost when she gets married and leaves. However, we give them a different perspective. We say that when you educate a girl you educate a whole community, because that girl may become an engineer or a lawyer. We also say that when you educate a woman you get double benefit: the man will bring home flour, the women, vegetables. Therefore, it is in the interest of the man to marry an educated woman. As a result, attitudes are changing.
The girl at home
AMURT provides monthly cash payments to the project participants to assist with household income. This provides families with the means to buy uniforms (children might be sent home from school if improperly dressed) and text books. In Samburu, the cash transfers helped the girls board at school, thereby enabling them to overcome the challenge of commuting long distances with its attendant safety and security risks, and reducing time spent on domestic chores, giving them time to devote to their school work. School enrollment increased after the cash transfer, and retention levels are still good even after some of the cash transfers have ended.
AMURT also provides solar lamps to help the girls study at night. This basic support can make a huge difference in a girl’s educational life. Nabarin Lesowapir, a Class 8 student, was one of 398 beneficiaries of a solar lamp. This is what she said about how it benefited her:
“I am the fifth born in our family. I go to Golgoltim Primary School. l used to be late in submitting my homework, at times l would stay late in school to work on my homework since we don’t have enough lighting at home. The light we have is a tin lamp which is only used by my mother in our small kitchen; besides it produces a lot of painful smoke and makes me dizzy whenever l start reading with it. But it was still hard for me to always do homework at school, and I often submitted my assignments late, resulting in poor grades. But since l received the solar lamp, I have never been punished for late submission of my assignments and our manyatta (hut) is now lit up with enough light for everyone, including my mother in her small corner where she cooks. My performance in our class has improved and in our last exam I managed 215 marks compared to my earlier result of 190 marks.”
Miriam , another of the girls from Samburu, attributed her better grades in English to the donation of text books. According to her, her scores increased from 48 to 58 marks over the period of a school term:
The textbooks that we had before were not as good and they were few because three pupils were sharing one. We now have a textbook each, and I am now able to do my homework any time I want.
Finally, in some cases mothers took on part of the household work burden of their daughters. The time saved enabled the girls to increase their study time.
The girl in school
AMURT facilitated the creation of child-to-child clubs in schools, each with a membership of up to 40 children. The clubs are inclusive of both genders and meet to promote adolescent health and engage in other extra-curricular topics. They are overseen by a patron (a teacher with a child-friendly disposition) and inspired by the leadership of a student champion.
The clubs are popular as they make the schools fun and informative (the members learn about income generation, recycling and environmental conservation), and build social and creativity skills. Moreover, club members are eligible to participate in inter-school galas, which are entertaining events where students share their creative skills. Therefore, if a child displays skills in, say, acting, then he or she may be called to represent the school in gala gatherings.
AMURT also provides the girls with sanitary towels. In poor communities such as Samburu, girls do not gave access to sanitary towels, and are likely to stay home during their monthly period. Schools where AMURT has provided this service have seen enrollment rise.
The girl herself
The inter-school galas have successfully provided a forum for the girls to express their own stories and insights to their peers in creative ways (drama, poetry, song) boosting self-esteem and self-confidence. The girls have highlighted issues such as early pregnancy, drug abuse and dropping out of school, which helps to stimulate behavior change.
For Miriam, participation in the inter-school gala dance competition was a motivating event. Organized by AMURT in Samburu, this was a completely new experience for her. The fact that her school won, and that she and her peers were given a trophy and certificates, motivated her to be a better student.
The WWW project is doing a good job in helping the girls understand themselves better, and gain hope for the future. The girls are confident that, with project support, they will escape poverty and help their families. They have high aspirations and dreams for a brighter future. For example, twelve-year old Janine imagines herself as an accountant so she can help people to “keep their money in the bank so that it is not stolen.”
When the right forces come together girls can be supported to reach their potential. The project is demonstrating success due to the collaboration of government, community, girl-friendly schools, more congenial home environments, and, of course, financial resources. When we unite, anything is possible.